The United States said that journalists in Pakistan should be allowed to cover ongoing events and do their work freely. The statement follows the registration of cases against several journalists and anchorpersons for their alleged involvement in the May 9 riots.
According to the details, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller made the remarks during a press briefing in Washington.
“I would say that we generally urge all governments to respect the role of journalists and media,” Matthew Miller said.
“We expect that journalists covering the events in Pakistan should all be allowed to do their work,” he added while noting that the press performs a critical function in democratic societies.
He also said that a free and independent press is a vital, core institution that undergirds healthy democracies by ensuring that electorates can make informed decisions and holding government officials accountable.
Pakistan has faced press freedom challenges, including harassment, threats, and violence against journalists. Such acts not only impede the work of journalists but also undermine democratic principles and the public’s right to access reliable information. In recent years, several cases of attacks and kidnappings targeting journalists have raised concerns within the international community.
Lately, Pakistani journalists have once again become the target of what is believed to be a crackdown by the government for being too vocal in criticising it. Earlier, anchorpersons Sabir Shakir, Moeed Pirzada, and Akbar Hussain were booked in a case for allegedly inciting the public for vandalism during May 9 violent protests.
The FIR was registered at Abpara Police Station under the charges of sedition and terrorism on the complaint of a citizen named Majid Mehmood.
The complainant claimed that the charged public stationed at the Melody area in the federal capital was taking instructions directly from the nominated suspects via video.
Similarly, Washington-based journalist Shaheen Sehbai and three vloggers — Syed Haider Raza Mehdi, Wajahat Saeed Khan, and major (retired) Adil Farooq Raja — were also booked for inciting violence during the May 9 protests.
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of journalist and YouTuber Imran Riaz Khan remain unknown over a month after he went missing. His family said Imran Riaz was arrested from the airport in Sialkot by the Punjab police.
They also said the police failed to produce him in front of the court, saying he was released shortly after the arrest. However, his whereabouts still remain unknown.